Wednesday, February 25, 2009

On Watching the President's Speech

I actually watched the President speak last night.

It has been more than a decade since I voluntarily watched a US President give a speech. Clinton just got repetitive toward the end, particularly as the Republicans got so entangled in useless mudslinging (what do I care what he did in his spare time? That's Hilary's problem, not mine) that he could do nothing but address or avoid those issues, and as for the last guy, well, I'm not a great fan of being lied to. George W. Bush's relationship to reality was so strained that I didn't trust him to tell me the time, let alone lay out plans for my country.

All I can say is that I am really glad to have a President who is not actively harmful, for a change. I have no idea of Obama's ideas will work or not, but I am not afraid for my children the way I was during the Bush regime.

I was also impressed with the fact that Obama didn't really try to hide anything. He came right out with the basic problem we've had for the last thirty years - we want it all and we don't want to pay for it. There has been way too much emphasis on tax cuts and not enough on paying for the services we use - services like the military (good to see Obama's going to put the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan back on the accounting books, so we might actually get some handle on just how far into debt the Bush regime has driven our children), like education, like infrastructure, like social programs, and so on. If we want services, we should pay taxes to support them. If we don't want to pay taxes, we should cut out the services. We have a responsibility to ourselves, our children and our nation to behave like grown-ups. The agenda set by our leaders since 1980 has ignored this responsibility.

And we have let them get away with it. Worse, many of us have actively abetted it.

There was a time when you knew where the parties stood regarding taxing and spending. Democrats wanted to tax and spend - to provide services, and raise the taxes to pay for them. Republicans wanted to not tax and not spend - to get the government out of the service industry and lower taxes accordingly. You could argue over which one of these positions was better for the country, but they were both responsible, grown-up positions to hold.

I have no idea where the Democrats stand on this issue today and I rather suspect that they don't either, but the Republican view since 1980 has been crystal clear: not tax, but spend like a drunken sailor.

Oh, I could put all kinds of statistics in here - my personal favorite being the graph of the national debt as a percentage of GDP, which declined steadily under both Democrats and Republicans from WWII to 1980, rose dramatically under Reagan and Bush the Elder, began to decline again under Clinton, and then shot up astronomically under Bush Lite - but the bottom line is this: Republicans no longer have any moral right to speak about fiscal responsibility.

I will reserve my judgment as to whether Democrats do or not.

But the next time I hear a "conservative Republican" complaining about how much debt the current stimulus package will get us into - the package that is being put into place in order to try to address the economic collapse caused by a decade of "conservative Republican" economic non-policy - I am going to get a big bag, fill it with one shiny agate marble for every $100 that the "conservative Republican" Bush administration added to the national debt, and drop it on their hypocritical little noggin.

Because it would make me feel good, that's why.

It was a good speech, and - unlike the drumbeat of irresponsible commentary emitted by the lunatic right - I wish all success to Obama. He's the only President we've got.

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